EAP use results in positive workplace outcomes: study

Compared with people who don’t access employer-provided employee assistance programs, Canadians who use the services have increased workplace engagement, as well as reduced presenteeism and distress at work, according to a study published last month in the U.S.-based Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health.

The study, which looked at the causal effects of Arete Human Resources Inc.’s EAPs on mental health, workplace functioning and life satisfaction, compared the experiences of Canadian employees with access to up to 12 counselling hours each year with employees who didn’t access these services.

Read: Evaluating the value of employee assistance programs

“One of the big takeaways, from my perspective, is that not all EAPS are the same,” says Allan Stordy, president and chief executive officer of Arete HR Inc. “What our concern is, are we getting the outcomes that are really helping employees, which in turn helps employers? And that was the purpose of this study. We really wanted to measure the effectiveness of our clinical interventions. We know there have been some pre- and post-test studies done before, but nothing of the magnitude we’ve taken on here by setting up a control group, which is the ultimate in research.”

The research took four years from design to publication, he adds. “It was a big undertaking, and we think it’s the first of its kind in North America, if not the world, to look at the effectiveness [of EAPs].”

The results, says Stordy, provided concrete evidence that more hours from an EAP results in more targeted hours for employees to improve their mental health, which has knock-on effects for the employer in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism. “So for cost savings, engagement, life satisfaction, all of those things, we now know that [an EAP] does truly work.”

Read: What you don’t know about your employee assistance program

The study also included a six months followup, at which time users demonstrated significantly reduced psychological distress, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to the control group of non-EAP users. The EAP users also reported greater life satisfaction at the followup relative to the non-EAP users, as well as improvements in mental health.

“The mental-health aspect of the study was one of the key findings,” says Dr. Marc Milot, research psychologist and consultant at Workreach Solutions (APAS Laboratory Inc.), who was also involved in the study. “Not only were symptoms of depression and anxiety reduced, they also explained the greater majority of improvements in workplace functioning. It’s one thing to provide an EAP, but you also should be able to demonstrate that they’re having an impact.”